Gaffney Fixes Gaffe — City Council Removes Ban on Religious Organizations Occupying Buildings in Commercial Zone

The city of Gaffney, South Carolina, allowed secular, non-profit organizations to use previously occupied and store-front buildings in a certain zoning district but barred religious organizations from doing the same.

After the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) intervened on behalf of two churches, the city council removed the prohibition this week. An excerpt:

Fortunately, and following the ACLJ’s intervention, the City Council voted unanimously to amend the ordinance to remove the illegal provision which prohibited our client churches, Innov8tion Church and Mission of Grace, from occupying buildings on one of the main roads in the City. A second reading will be held next month, at which time, the newly amended ordinance will go into effect.

The process of removing the illegal ordinance, however, was a rather rocky one.

The ACLJ believes the motive for barring religious organizations was based on religion, not on the city’s purported explanation to “protect the purpose of a Core Commercial District in being the vibrant heart and center of our town to be a thriving business culture.”

Religious organizations do contribute to commercial activities by fixing up and using vacant buildings, the ACLJ noted. When more people visit previously vacant buildings, whether religious or secular, they patronize area businesses.

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